Cabela's is widely known as an outfitter of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear.
It's also gaining a polished-apple reputation for reading, writing and arithmetic.
The Nebraska-based retail giant is pledging $1 million toward the construction of a new elementary school in Sidney, its headquarters community. Cabela's also gave $1 million to encourage approval of a $17.3 million bond issue for a new high school in 2008.
The elementary school would be built on what is now farmland. The site is on the east edge of Sidney on a 480-acre tract where Cabela's is helping develop about 730 house lots to help alleviate a chronic housing shortage.
Cabela's owns most of the development site where the school, houses and a new medical center are planned. In addition to its $1 million pledge, Cabela's plans to donate the land where the school would be built if the bond issue passes, said Wes Remmer, a company spokesman.
The big financial pledge by a local company is both great and rare, said John Spatz, executive director of the Nebraska Association of School Boards.
“Cabela's has been a great corporate partner to the community and the schools,” he said Monday. “It makes sense for them to do it. A million dollars will get you a long way to building a school.”
Sidney residents will vote in a special election Sept. 10 on a $15.85 million bond issue to finance the school. The Cabela's donation would be used to offset costs of the project.
The new school would house kindergarten through fourth grades. The school would replace three current elementary schools, all of which are more than 50 years old. If the bond issue passes, the school district plans to sell North (built in 1929) and South (1955) Elementary Schools. Central School (1953) would be retained for possibly relocating district administrative offices or future growth.
The impact of the bond issue on a home valued at $100,000 would be about $140 per year.
“Cabela's continues to grow. Sidney continues to grow. This is our home,” Remmer said. “As we all grow, so do the community's needs. Education is one of them.”
Cabela's anticipates continued headquarters growth over the next several years as the company adds more stores to its current lineup of 47 across the U.S. and Canada. It plans to open 17 more stores during the next two years, Remmers said.
The roughly 2,000 Cabela's employees in Sidney represent about a quarter of the community's workforce. There are 8,000 jobs in the city of 6,800 people. Workers travel from dozens of communities in western Nebraska, northeast Colorado and eastern Wyoming to jobs in Sidney.
Construction of streets, the first houses and the medical center in the development zone could begin next spring, said City Manager Gary Person.
The new school could open in 2015, school officials said.